Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and other coalition leaders on Monday castigated PTI chief Imran Khan for levelling “poisonous allegations” against the armed forces and “putting blots” on the appointment of the new army chief.

Their comments come a day after Imran, at a rally in Faisalabad, alleged that the PPP and PML-N were opposing fresh elections, because they wanted to “appoint an army chief of their choice” in November to save their skin in corruption cases.

“They want to bring their own army chief…they are afraid that if a strong and patriotic army chief is appointed then he would ask them about the looted wealth,” the former prime minister said.

“They are sitting [in the government] because they want to bring in an army chief of their choice through joint efforts,” Imran claimed, adding that the army chief should be “appointed on merit…whoever is on the top of the merit list should be appointed” to head the institution.

Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, who was appointed in 2016, is set to retire in the last week of November. The army chief’s appointment is meant to be for three years, but Gen Bajwa was given an additional three-year term in 2019 after a bit of political drama.

Responding to the PTI chief’s statements, PM Shehbaz, in a tweet today, said that Imran’s “despicable utterances to malign institutions” were touching new levels every day.

“He is now indulging in direct mud-slinging & poisonous allegations against Armed Forces & its leadership,” he said, adding that Imran’s “nefarious agenda” was aimed at disrupting and undermining Pakistan.

In a statement on Twitter, PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari said that the nation was now aware of the person spreading chaos in the country. “Today, everyone knows [who is the] man and the beast.

“This man is determined to weaken the country, but we won’t let that happen,” he alleged, vowing that the government won’t let the state institutions and generals fall prey to Imran’s “lust”.

The former president also criticised the governments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab for not actively participating in the flood activities, saying that everywhere only the federal government could be seen.

Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal tweeted that amid the catastrophic floods, the PTI chairman had resorted to polluting the political space.

“Imran Niazi continues to pollute the political space and push the country towards extreme polarisation and putting blots on all state institutions including the appointment of new COAS? What is his end game? More anarchy & chaos?”

Meanwhile, Minister for Climate Change and PPP leader Sherry Rehman alleged that Imran was spreading hatred against the security agencies without realising it.

“Those who violated the Constitution and plotted against the interests of the country are now calling the Bhutto and Zardari family traitors,” she tweeted.

“Now this ‘ladla’ is accusing PPP and the PML-N of taking concessions by installing their favourite army chief. He [Imran] is giving treason certificates to us by making institutions controversial.”

Rehman added that Imran could not prove any of the cases lodged against the coalition government even after keeping the opponents in jail for two years.

More than 33 million people, the minister went on, had been affected by the floods while millions were rendered homeless. “Many towns and villages have been submerged but one man is still calling for elections. Is this person’s ego and politics bigger than people’s lives?” she added.

From London, PML-N leader Ishaq Dar said that Imran was bent on making the army chief’s appointment political. “Will this person decide which chief is a patriot and which one is not?” he asked.

The next army chief’s appointment is at times mentioned as one of the major subplots in the ongoing political crisis engulfing the country.

In an interview with BBC Urdu in May, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said: “Imran Khan wanted to do things his own way on the matter of the new army chief’s appointment. He wanted to ensure the protection of his political interests and the continuity of his rule.”

That same month, Imran said he never wanted to bring his own army chief and that he never meddled in Pakistan Army’s affairs.

But as if the appointment is seemingly at the heart of the matter, President Arif Alvi had late last month said in his opinion there was “no harm” in appointing the next army chief before the expiry of the incumbent’s term.

“In my opinion, there is no harm in making the army chief’s appointment ahead of time,” he told reporters.

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